Following a survey of national federations by the FEI, it was determined that grooms were vastly underrepresented and underserved in the governing body of all major equestrian sports, and the FEI has begun the process of making it right.
The FEI invited four world class grooms from show jumping, eventing and dressage to come and speak with the FEI’s president and give their role in the sport a voice.
Thanks to input from Brent Kuylen of Belgium who grooms for Jeroen Dubbeldam, Nanna-Riikka Nieminen of Finland who grooms for Henrik von Eckermann, Alan Davies who grooms for Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester (dressage), and Jackie Potts who grooms for William Fox Pitt (eventing), it’s been determined that grooms will now be officially registered with the FEI in their own role.
Through this registration, Grooms will have their own interface with the FEI to streamline paperwork, educational opportunities, and prepping horses and riders for travel and events.
“Grooms play an absolutely vital role in our sport, especially in preserving the welfare of our horses, but often they go unnoticed and unrecognised,” said FEI President Ingmar De Vos. “Grooms are truly worth their weight in gold, and we want to provide the finest resources and tools that will help increase knowledge of best practices and standards. Forging better relationships with our grooms is only the beginning. We want to help them share their knowledge with the wider community for the benefit of the sport globally.”
“I think this is a real step forward,” said Jackie Potts following the meeting. “It’s good to try and keep the standards up, and use the experience and the knowledge that some of us have gained over the years, in keeping welfare a priority and keeping grooms in the industry as well.”
The FEI says they will now focus on integrating, building a registration process, and outreach to start an education and communication portal.
There will also be additional meetings with grooms in coming months – the next meeting will include additional grooms from more disciplines and will be held in conjunction with the WEG 2018 Games.
Pres. De Vos couldn’t be more right when he says grooms are unappreciated and unnoticed at the top of our sport, and every step to change that is a positive one. (A groom really shouldn’t have to get kicked in the head at the Olympics to get their proper due.)
Kiss and cry cameras have helped highlight some of the connection grooms have to their horses, and more riders are doing their part to give their grooms public credit, but official recognition should be the first step in many by the FEI in demonstrating the importance of grooms to world-ranked riders and the success of the sport.